Captain America (2011) Review

Captain America, the last big movie before the eagerly waited Avengers film, has finally arrived. A raucous ride through a sensationalized comic book version of the Second World War, Captain America delivers the summer fun. While it doesn’t have the wry edge of Iron Man or the mystic spin of Thor, it’s a slick adventure that will satisfy fans of the comic character and action films alike.

It’s the height of World War II and Hitler’s goons are marching all over Europe. There’s nothing in the world that Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) wants more than to join the fight. Unfortunately, Steve’s meager frame and sickly constitution keep him ineligible from taking up arms against the Axis Powers. Eventually his perseverance and noble intentions catch the attention of Dr. Erskine (Stanley Tucci), a man in charge of a top-secret project to create the perfect “Super Soldier.” Meanwhile the fanatical Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving), a top Nazi scientist and leader of the Reich splinter group HYDRA, puts in motion a plan of global domination that will surpass even Hitler’s own terrifying ambitions. Back in the States, Steve is subjected to the Super Soldier serum, and quickly becomes a towering embodiment of physical perfection. It doesn’t take long before Steve suits up and joins the fight alongside his beautiful fellow agent Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) and the ragtag Howling Commandos. Soon it’s a race against time to stop Schmidt and HYDRA as Steve realizes his destiny as Captain America.

Captain America follows a familiar action-adventure formula that doesn’t distinguish itself by doing anything radically different than the average comic book fare. Where the film does shine is in its own execution. Everything from the cast to the production value is practically pitch-perfect. Director Joe Johnston creates a vibrant and colorful world — a comic book version of our nation caught in the grips of another worldwide war. New York City is shown as a city still alive with vibrancy and energy as Johnston juxtaposes the bleaker tones of everyday life with scenes of military and patriotic enthusiasm. Battlefields are decimated and distraught, and HYDRA’s bases and castles are dark and foreboding. Captain America manages to do something very well – to breathe life into a comic book story set in the forties without sacrificing the reality and aesthetics of the time.

An incredibly well rounded cast spurs the film along. Fans can rest easy knowing that Chris Evans is more than worthy to hold the shield. He portrays both the sincerity of the early Steve Rogers and eases into the swagger required to convincingly portray Captain America. He brings a natural charisma and humanity to the character; showing despite his superior physical abilities the man still has an earnest heart. Hayley Atwell brings great dimension to her character as well. Peggy Carter is far from a damsel-in-distress love interest for Captain America. She’s a confident, capable woman who is fully aware of the situation around her. She’s just as sure of herself wielding a Thompson as she is asking someone to dance. It is very refreshing to see these traits in a romantic interest, especially in a comic book movie. She manages to be both friend and mentor to Steve, not just a prize to be claimed after beating up the bad guy.

One of the few complaints audiences may have with Captain America is with the villain. Hugo Weaving positively dominates whenever he is on screen and quite frankly doesn’t have enough scenes of his own to do it here. He’s intimidating both physically and mentally. He carries a fanaticism and confidence that will make audiences truly believe as he does; that even the Nazi party holds him back from realizing his true potential as a god of men. Again, fans of the comics will be thrilled with both Weaving’s dramatic portrayal of this iconic villain, as well as the effects work done on his appearance. The end result is one of the better villains to grace the screen in a while.

Captain America really does have something to appeal to audiences of all kinds. Comic fans should be thrilled with the attention and obvious adoration given to the rich source material. Movie fans in general will enjoy an alternate World War II spectacle that really gets them rooting for the good guys. Chris Evans is well cast as the Cap, and proves that he’ll be a fine choice to lead the Avengers in their future adventures. Despite a slower second half, and a 3-D conversion that does nothing to add to the film, Captain America manages to exemplify the high mark of quality exhibited by all of Marvel’s recent comic book adaptations and the summer blockbuster in general.